Book Review: Amy Rothenberg's New Collection of Essays

The A Cappella Singer Who Lost Her Voice & Other Stories from Natural Medicine

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

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Back in 1991 when Amy Rothenberg’s husband Paul Herscu’s first book was published, it came as a shock. Rothenberg and Herscu had only graduated National College of Natural Medicine in 1986. With barely four years of clinical experience they had produced a volume, The Homeopathic Treatment of Children, that quickly become a foundation text for all of us. Even now, after 20 years in practice, I still read it regularly and marvel at the depth of the their knowledge.

I recall when first reading the book wondering how they could have such an accurate grasp of the subject. I assumed it was some sort of psychic thing, a kind of Vedic cognition. Rothenberg tells me it was hard work—the result of seeing patients six days a week, month after month, careful charting, and the simple act of sorting their charts by the homeopathic remedies that effected a cure.

Rothenberg and Herscu closed their first practice in Nebraska in 1990 and moved to Amherst, Mass. They opened a practice across the state line in Connecticut, where the practice of naturopathy is regulated and legal. Shortly afterwards started the New England School of Homeopathy. Their school grew from the initial small classes held around their kitchen table into multiyear courses conducted all around the world.

Though that first book was a collaborative effort, it was clearly Herscu’s voice we hear in the writing. This new book, The A Cappella Singer Who Lost Her Voice & Other Stories from Natural Medicine, is Rothenberg’s work and her own voice. You may recognize her style from the pages of the New England Journal of Homeopathy, which she edited, or Homeopathy Today in which she has long been a regular contributor. Rothenberg's sincere and heartfelt warmth comes through the pages of this book. She shares much of her own personal history and her thoughts about how she first became interested in naturopathic medicine and how she has felt about practicing, raising a family, teaching, and even working with a spouse.

Rothenberg's sincere and heartfelt warmth comes through the pages of this book.

Although most of the cases in The A Capella Singer still involve the selection of the appropriate homeopathic remedy, the book is much more about the practice of naturopathy and how homeopathy is integrated into Rothenberg and Herscu's practices. She goes beyond homeopathy to talk about other modalities and therapies she has found useful, especially in working with difficult children and challenging families.

Rothenberg divides her writing into chapters focused on treating different age groups. She begins with a chapter on pregnancy and small children and then presents chapters on treating older children, teens, adults, and older adults. The information is not just about homeopathy; Rothenberg shares with us her thoughts on a wide range of topics: what it’s like to make housecalls, watch patients grow from childhood into adults, and send one’s own kids go off to college. Her ruminations are as diverse as they are enlightening

Much in this book is unexpected—at least if you come to it anticipating another textbook in homeopathy or natural medicine. The experience of reading it the book akin to preceptoring. It is personal—a shared experience, an experience in which another practitioner, in this case a very intelligent and successful practitioner, opens up both her practice and also her life in an attempt to impart the lessons she has learned in 20 years of practice.

In many places Rothenberg affirms some of the same things we have figured out over the years. In others, I find I am folding down the pages, wanting to go back and reread her wisdom in the hope some of it will sink in.

While the book is overall a success, it could have benefited from more critical editing. Many of the subsections were originally published as stand-alone pieces and now have been combined together into a collage. This doesn’t always read smoothly. In the end, though, this book provides a rare window into the lives of two colleagues whom I have long admired, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to share a few moments in their world.

About the Author

Jacob Schor ND, FABNO, is a graduate of National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon, and now practices in Denver, Colorado. He served as president to the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is on the board of directors of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. He is recognized as a fellow by the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. He serves on the editorial board for the International Journal of Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathic Doctor News and Review (NDNR), and Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal. In 2008, he was awarded the Vis Award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. His writing appears regularly in NDNR, the Townsend Letter, and Natural Medicine Journal, where he is the Abstracts & Commentary editor.